JERUSALEM AND MECCA: THE QURBAN OF ABRAHAM & THE HOLY TEMPLE

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واذ ابتلى ابرهم ربه بكلمت فاتمهن قال اني جاعلك للناس اماما

(البقرة 2:124).

God said: “And remember that Abraham was tried Lord with certain commands which he fulfilled them. He said: I will make thee a Leader to the nations.” (al-Baqarah 2:124)

The Quran states that Abraham was subjected to various tests, and the great test was the binding of his son, Ishmael as the sacrifice of Abraham which so called the Qurban, see al-Shaffat 37:100-102. However, this verse must be presumed that what is meant here is simply Abraham’s complete submission to whatever commandments he received from God. Thus, in everything Abraham fulfilled God’s tests, and Ishmael as the sacrifice of Abraham was the gretest. After doing the binding of Ishmael and Abraham fulfilled it, he was promised the leadership of the world.

The Hebrew Quran states:

כאשר ריבונו של אברהם ניסה אותו בכמה מצוות שעמד בהן. אמר ריבונו הנני ממנה אותך אימאם לאנשים.

kaasher ribono shel av’raham nisah oto b’khamah mitz’vot sheamad bahen. amar ribono hin’niy m’maneh ot’kha ymm laanashiym.

The Hebrew word ניסה (nisah) in this Hebrew Quran is to represent the “tests” of the commands, mitzvot (מצוות).

The Mishnah (Torah she be’al phe), Pirke Avot 5:3 also stated that Abraham was subjected to the עשר ניסה (ashar nisah), meaning “ten tests”, but the sages differ as to which of his life experiences were tests. All sages agree that the call to leave his homeland (see Sefer Bereshit 12:1), and the binding of Isaac described in this Pirke Avot 5:3 are included. Sefer Bereshit 22:2 also states:

וימר קח נא את בויך את יחידך אשר אהבת את יצחק ולך לך ארצ המריה

vay-yomer qach-na et bincha et yechidecha asher achavta et Yitzhaq ve lech lecha el eretz ha-Moriyah.

“And he said, “Take now your son, your only one whom you lovest, Isaac, and go into the land of Moriah (Genesis 22:2)

Based on the Torah, Isaac as the Qurban of Abraham is a specific trial of Abraham than other previous ones.

According to the Quran, after Abraham was tried to sacrifice Ishmael as the great test (al-Baqarah 2:124) God then promised Abraham as the Leader of all nations, so that why God ordered Abraham himself to build the sacred refuge of the Ka’bah, the holy Temple with Ishmael as the sacred site, the qiblah for all nations (see al-Baqarah 2:127). Rav Saadia Gaon also confirmed the existence of the ruins of this sacred site, before Abraham was appointed by God to build the refuge of the Ka’bah. In the Judeo-Arabic Targum of Chamisha Chumshe Torah, Saadia Gaon translated the Sefer Bereshit 12:9 as follows

תם רחל אברם כל מא מר רחל אלי אלקבלה

Tsumma rachala Abram kulla ma marra rachala ila al-Qiblah

“And Abram journeyed, going and journeying towards the Qiblah.”

“Abram partit ensuite, allant et se deplacant vers le Qiblah.”

The readers may refer to the Sefer Bereshit Lech Lecha 12:9), R. Saadia Ben Iosef Al-Fayyoumi. Volume premier. Version arabe du pentateque (Paris: Ernest Leroux, Editeur, 1893), p. 19.

Ishmael was 13 years old (Sefer Bereshit 17:25), and the Sefer Bereshit 18:6-7 also confirms: “So Abraham hastened to the tent to Sarah and said, “Hurry! Three seah’s of unsifted flour, sifted flour! Knead and make cakes!” The Abram ran to the cattle, took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the youth who hurried to prepare it. Amazingly, Rashi also explained the Hebrew phrase אל הנער (el han-Na’ar), lit. “au jeune homme. C’est Ismael, afin de l’initier a l’accomplissement des Mitsvot. “Chamisha Chumshe Torah. Le pentateuch avec commentaires de Rachi et notes explicatives (Paris: Fondation Samuel et Odette Levy, 1979), p. 103.

Mikraot Gedolot: Bereshit. Volume One. A New English Translation by Rabbi A.J. Rosenberg on the Sefer Bereshit 18:7, he said:

“to the Youth – this was Ishmael, to train him to perform mitzvoth (Rashi from Aboth d’Rabbi Nathan, chapter 13).

Derech Tov explains that the definite article means the Youth mentioned above who was ISHMAEL. Now why did Abraham give the calves to Ishmael? The Answer is that he wished to train Ishmael in the performance of mitzvoth.” (New York: the Judaica Press, 1993), p. 211a.

Rashi himself also explains that the definite article “the” is expressed by prefixing a “hay” to the noun. This is called הי הידיעה (hay-hayedi’a), see , Sampson A. Isseroff. An Introduction to Rashi’s Grammatical Explanations in the Book of Genesis. Sha’ar le Diqduqei Rashi. Sefer Bereshit (the Torah Education Department of the World Zionist Organization, 1985), p. 9.

In addition, it is important to note that according to the Midrash, הנער (han-Na’ar) is to be explained as ISHMAEL. The language clearly defines this Hebrew word not as any ordinary “young boy” or “lad” because it uses the Hebrew letter ה (hay) to designate the special “young boy.” The letter ה (hay) added emphasis to the importance and greatness of this “young boy”, even, his position for Abraham, so that why Rashi confirms that this young boy is ISHMAEL.

The Hebrew word הנער (han-Na’ar) means “the young man”, however, is to refer to Ishmael whom he bade to do this in order to train him to the performance of the religious duties, the Mitzvoth. Ishmael was 13 years old, according to the Mosaic Law, the age of Bar Mitzvah. But how to do this? How to slaughter the calf according to the Mitzvoth for the Bar Mitzvah (the son of the Mitzvoth? Is it a must to slaughter animal with the existence of the Qiblah? Yes, it is right. Sulchan Aruch explained it, about the important thing of the Qiblah when the one wants to slaughter the animal according to the Mitzvoth. But the Temple of Jerusalem did not exist in that moment. Did Ishmael slaughter the calf directed to the Temple of Jerusalem? Of course not. Amazingly, according to the Quran, Abraham and Ishmael already built the Temple of Mecca with his son, Ishmael. Ka’bah is the Qiblah, the direction to which Ishmael and Ishmaelites turn in prayer. Therefore, the Quran confirms that the first, Abraham took Ishmael as the Qurban, and the second, Abraham then built the Temple of Mecca with Ishmael (al-Baqarah 2:124-127).

Obviously, the Qiblah אלקבלה (al-Qiblah) that was really meant by Rav Saadia Gaon is the direction of Mecca, to the Ka’bah, not to the direction of Jerusalem, to the mount of Moriah as Rashi’s commentary. If we received Rashi’s commentary, there are many problems. Did Ishmael slaughter the animal to the direction of Jerusalem, to mount Moriah as the Qiblah? Did Ishmael slaughter the animal to the direction of Mecca, the Kaaba as the Qiblah? Where did Ishmael do to slaughter the animal? The Torah said that Abraham and Ishmael lived in Mamre (Sefer Bereshit 18:1-7). Firstly, Jerusalem however is not the south of Mamre. Secondly, Abraham never knew the holy place which God had told him, mount Moriah as the Qiblah. It seems Ishmael slaughtered the animal in the direction of Ka’bah. There was no holy Temple or direction prayer in Jerusalem at that time. Mostly likely the direction was towards the Ka’bah. Thus, Abraham never knew the mount Moriah as the Qiblah before God ordered him to slaughter his son, Isaac. Therefore, Rav Saadia Gaon mentioned the Qiblah, the southward is to refer to the direction of Mecca. Amazingly, Rav Saadia Gaon also confirmed the existence of Mecca in Sefer Bereshit 10:30.

1. Sefer Bereshit (Genesis) 18:1 “ And the Eternal appeared unto him in the oaks of Mamre …. “

2. Sefer Bereshit (Genesis) 18:6 “And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah and said, Hasten three seahs of fine meal, knead it, and make hearthcakes.”

3. Sefer Bereshit (Genesis) 18:7 “And Abraham ran unto the herd and took a calf tender and good, and gave it unto THE LAD or THE YOUTH (Ishmael) and HE (Ishmael) hasted to dress it”.

Based on these verses, Abraham and his son, Ishmael lived in Mamre. Where is the territory of Mamre? Mamre is a place in the Hebron district, WEST of Machpelah and SOUTH of Jerusalem. It indicates that Jerusalem is not a direction of prayer at that time before the binding of Isaac as the Qurban. Jerusalem, NORTH of Mamre, and Ishmael clearly slaughtered the animal to the direction of the SOUTH of Mamre as the Qiblah according to Rav Saadia Gaon, that is in Mecca, not to Jerusalem. Ka’bah is a Qiblah in Mecca, south of Mamre. Obviously, based on the Sefer Bereshit (Genesisi) 12:9 Abraham lived in Mamre, he then journeyed, going and journeying towards the Qiblah, the South. What does it mean? Abraham already knew הנגבה (han-Neqba), was literally refer to the South, as the direction of the Qiblah, the South of Mamre. Jerusalem lies North of Mamre; and Mecca lies South of Mamre. Thus Abraham traveled South, not North.

Interestingly, based on the verse of the Sefer Bereshit 12:9, Rabbi Bachya ben Asher in his Midrash ‘al Chamisha Chumshe Torah: Bereshit, he said:

וכל המסעות האלו כדי להשיג השגת נבואתו של אל שדי הוא כנוי של אל”ף דל”ד שכולל אותו הנגבה. ועל כן יזכירנו תמיד בדבריו

Ve chol ham-massa’ot ha-ellu kedei le-hassiq has-sagat nevuato shel El-Shaddai, Hu kinnui shel alef-daled (65) shekolel oto han-Neqba. Ve ‘al ken yazkirenu tamid Midbaraiv.

“All of these journeys had as their purpose that he should qualify for the gift of prophecy on the level of communication with the attribute of God known as שדי (Shadai). This is an attribute of the אדני (ADONAI) level of God. It is alluded to in the word הנגבה, meaning “Southward”, whose numerical value 65 equal to the name אדני (ADONAI), see Rabbeinu Bachya ben Asher (Yerushlayim: Mossad Harav Kook, 1977), 53.

However, this is the Torah’s hidden message in the light of gematria (number patterns) according to Rabbi Bachya ben Asher on the meaning of the South – the holy place of ADONAI, or the Qiblah in the Saadia’s commentary. Amazingly, Rabbenu Bachya ben Asher and Rav Saadia Gaon exactly explained that the South has a link with the Qiblah and ADONAI (Hashem).

Ibn Ezra in his Perushi ‘al ha-Torah le Rabbenu Avraham ben Ezra on the Sefer Bereshit (Genesis) 12:9 he also describes:

הנקבה: פאת דרום. ונקרא כן בלשון ארמית נגיבו מיא כי צד דרום חן. ומרוב החום ייבש. וכן טעם כי ארץ הנגב נתתני

han-Neqba. Peat darom ve niqrea ken be leson Aramit Negivu-mayya ki tzat darom chen, u merov hachom yibash, ve ken tha’am ki eretz han-Negev netattani (יהושע טו, יט)

Toward the South. Negev means South and it means the same in Aramaic. Negev in Aramaic means dry as we see from Onqelos who renders the waters were dried up (Genesis 8:13) as Negivu-mayya. The South is called Negev (dry) because it is hot there, and the heat parches the land. This is the way for that thou hast set me in the Southlands, eretz ha-negev give me therefore springs of water (Joshua 15:19), see Ibn Ezra (Yerushlayim: Mossad Harav Kook, 1977), p. 52.

Furthermore, in the Chamisha Chumshe Torah: Bereshit. The Pentateuch: Translated & Explained. Genesis, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch said: “the South of Palestine was by no means the most flourishing part, the whole district from Jerusalem southwards is called in the book of Zacharia ערבה (‘Araba), meaning “Wilderness” (London: L. Honig & Sonss Ltd., 1963), p. 235. Hirsch’s commentary also agree that the South is another name of ARABIA, the territory of the Wilderness, במדבר (Bemidbar). And Ibn Ezra confirms it, that eretz ha-negev means “a dry land.” So, it is a clear that Ishmaelites are B’nei Bamidbar (the sons of the Wilderness), who lived in a dry land in Arabia.

Meanwhile, according to the Torah and Pirke de Rav Eliezer, Abraham took Isaac as the Qurban with the first born-son of Abraham himself, he was Ishmael. Rashi also confirms this. Ibn Ezra also states that Isaac was 13 years old, the age of Bar Mitzvah when he was sacrificed by Abraham. “It thus appears logical to assume that Isaac was close to 13 years old.” Based on this verse, Abraham took Isaac as the Qurban with Ishmael in the land of Moriah. And Rashi explained that the land of Moriah is to refer to Jerusalem. He said: “This is Jerusalem”, and so we find 2 Chron. 3:1 “to build the house of the LORD at Jerusalem Mount Moriah. Our rabbis have explained that it is called Moriah – Instruction – because from it ( i.e. from the Temple built on that mountain) instruction (huraah) הוראה came forth to Israel (Bereshit Rabba 55). The Torah depicts how Abraham really did the trial command to sacrifice his son, the binding of Isaac before the sacred place was then built by King Salomon as the Temple of Jerusalem. The Temple was not built by Abraham himself.

However, both Quran and the Torah agree in the grand narrative of the great trial of Abraham, the Qurban. After the Qurban, God prepared to establish His holy Temple. Thus, the grand narrative of both holy Temples through the Qurban are similar, but not exactly the same.

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Summary

1. Rav Saadia Gaon confirms the real name of מכה (Makkah) in his Targum, Sefer Bereshit 10:30.

2. Rav Saadia Gaon confirms Al-Qiblah אלקבלה (the South) in his Targum, Sefer Bereshit 12:9.

3. The Torah confirms Abraham and Ishmael lived in Mamre, Sefer Bereshit 18:1 and Mamre, the South of Jerusalem.

4. Rashi confirms that Ishmael slaughtered the animal, see Perush Rashi ‘al ha-Torah, Sefer Bereshit 18:7

5. Ibn Ezra confirms באר לחי (be’er Lahai) as באר זמזם (be’er Zamzam), see Perush Ibn Ezra, Sefer Bereshit 16:14

6. Rav Saadia Gaon in his Targum also confirms the name of Hajr Al-Hijaz, Sefer Bereshit 14:7.

7. Rabbi Bachya ben Asher also confirms the name of Zamzam in his Perush Bachya al ha-Torah as well as Ibn Ezra. (Sefer Bereshit 16:14). Rav Saadia Gaon confirms this holy place in חגר אלחגאז (Hajr Al-Hijaz), אלקבלה (Al-Qiblah) and מכה (Makkah).

8. Radak also confirms the name of Mecca as well as Rav Saadia Gaon’s, see Sefer Bereshit 10:30.

Rav Saadia Gaon dan Ibn Ezra confirmed the existence of the Qiblah, the South of Mamre, so that why Rav Saadia Gaon and Ibn Ezra mentioned the name of Hajr Al-Hijaz, the name of Zamzam, the name of Mecca, all are refer to the South, the Qiblah as Rav Saadia Gaon said. These prove that the Qiblah according to Rav Saadia Gaon is to refer to the South of Mamre, that is Mecca, not Jerusalem. It proves clearly accoding to Rav Saadia Gaon.

Critical Notes

According to traditional Jewish understanding such as Ibn Ezra and Radak, the book of Zechariah 13:7 refers directly to the suffering Messiah. The only possible interpretation for this scripture relates to the suffering Messiah, as Ibn Ezra suggested, who will die, as the scripture clearly states by crucifixion, see Itzhak Sapira, The Return of the Kosher Pig: the Divine Messiah in Jewish Thought (Maryland: Lederer Books – Messianic Jewish Publishers, 2013), 128. Do you think that Ibn Ezra and Radak have been influenced by theological power of Christian term when he explained that the verse referred to the suffering Messiah? Do you also think that the use of באר זמזם (be’er Zamzam) is the influence of Islamic term when Ibn Ezra explained the verse in the Sefer Bereshit 16:14? Maybe you will say “case by case.”

Rabbi Saadia Gaon also connecting Daniel 7:13 to Zechariah 9:9 declares: “As a sign of humality, the Messiah will come riding on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9). He will however be accompanied by the clouds of heaven (Daniel 7:13), i.e. the angels of heavens, see Itzhak Sapira, The Return of the Kosher Pig: the Divine Messiah in Jewish Thought (Maryland: Lederer Books – Messianic Jewish Publishers, 2013), p. 200. Do you also think that Rav Saadia Gaon was influenced by Christian theology on the coming of Christian Messiah based on the New Testament? Maybe you will say “case by case too.” The Islamic terms in Ibn Ezra’s works are the influence of Islam, but the Christian terms and its theology in Ibn Ezra’s works are not the influence of Christianity. Indeed, you really did a selected judgement to make a critical episteme to the rabbinic texts.

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